Planning issues have always been a major concern in Sutton South Ward, with numerous examples of poor quality developments we have seen off but others where local democracy has been overturned by the decisions of the remote Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol. The Queen’s Speech on 11 May, setting out the legislative plans of the Government, included proposals we hoped had been dropped to run a coach and horses through the local democracy elements of the planning system. Richard has denounced these as a charter for developers to make massive profits building slum housing, while ignoring and side-lining the views of the local community.
The proposals would mean that in certain areas developers would get automatic consent to planning applications without there being any process of consultation with local people.
These proposals are not new. At the meeting of Sutton Council on 23 November last year – the first Council meeting chaired by Trish as our Mayor – Council passed a motion expressing concern at the threat to democratic decision taking from the proposals the Government had set out to change the planning system.
Councillors noted that the proposals would lead to automatic approval of many developments with the voice and opinions of local people removed from the planning system. They noted that requirements for new developments to include affordable housing would be severely eroded and the housing target for new building in Sutton increased from 427 units to 1122 units. This latter figure is impossible to achieve without massive increases in the density of housing, undermining the pleasant, green, suburban feel of Sutton. The Government claims, falsely, that the planning system is an impediment to development, but we have to suspect that what this is really about is the right of developers to ignore local opinion when it gets in the way of what is profitable.
As local Councillors, we have always been active in looking at planning applications in our Ward and opposing those not good enough to meet our high standards in Sutton. In the recent past we have been active on proposals in Brighton Road, The Ridgway, Upland Road and Hillcroome Road. Some proposals that we thought objectionable have been turned down, including putting two stories on the top of Northumberland House. If you scan down the posts on this website you will find numerous examples of planning applications where we have joined with local residents to get improvements or oppose what developers are proposing.
The proposals of the Government are a major threat. These proposals to “reform” planning law are likely to, in many cases, remove the requirements for local consultation on planning proposals and act as a developers’ charter. We want to retain a system that, while it has defects, lets local people have a democratic say on what is built locally. It is too important a right for us to lose.